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    Archbishop Desmond Tutu

May 17, 2017

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Oppression of gays is ‘new Apartheid’

Editor’s note: On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we revisit a 2014 interview Archbishop Tutu did with Ann Curry. This interview was conducted prior to his daughter Mpho’s coming out of the closet to him.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led a decades-long fight against racial discrimination in South Africa, says the oppression of gay people around the world is the “new Apartheid.” In an interview arranged by the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, the retired Anglican archbishop spoke openly with NBC’s Ann Curry about God, the Bible, and homophobia.

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January 16, 2017

Tutu and King: Two Kinds of Nonviolence

This article written by Charles Krauthammer and originally appeared in his syndicated column on January 17, 1986, three days before the first national holiday honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1987, Mr. Krauthammer won the Pulitzer prize for commentary and this was his winning entry.

The accepted wisdom in South Africa, Lionel Abrahams, a literary critic, told Joseph Lelyveld of The New York Times, has it that “nothing will do but that hard black men come to grips with hard white men, to which end the soft men between must clear out of the way.”

In revolution, the soft men between must always clear out of the way. Revolution is not for moderates. From Alexander Kerensky to Arturo Cruz, nothing changes: the man of qualms, of balance, of ambivalence is lost.

Bishop Desmond Tutu — Nobel Peace Prize winner, anti-apartheid activist and leading spokesman for nonviolence in South Africa — is not a hard man. “I am the marginal man between two forces, and possibly I will be crushed,” he admits. “But that is where God has placed me, and I have accepted the vocation.”

The miracle of Martin Luther King, Jr., what set him apart even from Desmond Tutu, was the militance of his moderation, the steel will with which he insisted not just on his ends but on his means.

In a revolution, unwavering pursuit of ends is no great distinction. Everyone has an idea about destination. But only great, hard men are sure exactly of the path. Men like Lenin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh. (The list is depressingly long.)

Or like Gandhi, who believed with religious certainty that satyagraha, truth-force, was the way to freedom. And like King, who never wavered in his commitment to nonviolence, and who understood that for the moderate to survive in revolutionary times he must stick as hard by his means as the hard men at the extremes do by theirs.

Tutu is also deeply personally committed to nonviolence, and has shown extraordinary personal courage in its service. At least twice he has risked his life to save a suspected informer from a murderous mob. Last August in Daveyton, he stood alone between black demonstrators and heavily armored South African troops and negotiated a solution that averted certain violence.

Tutu’s nonviolence, however, seems more a personal choice. “I wouldn’t, myself, carry guns or fight and kill. But I would be there to minister to people who thought they had no alternative.” Asked two days ago whether there is any justification for violence, he replied, “If I were young … I would have rejected Bishop Tutu long ago.”

Personal choices are not forced on others. Instead, says Tutu, tactics are not even his domain. “I am an idealist. It is unfair to ask an idealist how he will move toward a utopian goal.”

King was forever telling people how to move. His means were as inseparable a part of his being and his message as his ends. King made nonviolence the cornerstone of his philosophy of social action. Tutu’s two books, “Crying in the Wilderness” and “Hope and Suffering,” are a passionate, prophetic call for reconciliation and negotiation. But of the books’ 62 speeches, sermons and writings, not one is devoted to the theory and practice of nonviolence. For Tutu, nonviolence is a discipline, a matter of conscience. For King, it was that and more: a weapon, a matter of hard political strategy.

Tutu is King’s natural heir. On Monday, the first annual holiday commemorating King’s birth, that kinship receives ratification from King’s living memorial, the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change. It will award Tutu its 1986 Non-Violent Peace Prize.

To compare Tutu to King is therefore inevitable, though it is perhaps unfair. First, because King was a great political leader and Tutu does not pretend to be one at all. “I am just a religious leader standing in for the real leaders of our people who are in jail and exile,” he says. “If I am a leader it is only by default.”

But more important, because South Africa is not America. There is no Kennedy, no Johnson. No franchise. No white public ready to be galvanized to action by scenes of Southern violence. South Africa is all South, old South.

Tutu knows that well. “Nonviolence presupposes a minimum moral level. And when that minimum moral level does not operate, I don’t think nonviolence can succeed.” The oppressor society must be capable of “moral revulsion.” It happened in Gandhi’s Britain and King’s America. “I don’t see that happening here,” says Tutu.

The Pretoria regime won’t talk to him. And the young black militants want him out, says Tutu, so they can “get on with the revolution” without him. The hard men want the soft men to move.

King would not be moved. True, he was more fortunate than Tutu in his choice of birthplace. America had the capacity for shame that is the necessary condition for the success of nonviolence. But it is also a sufficient condition. The ground needs a figure. Nonviolent revolution needs a hard man to lead it. America was even luckier than King for his choice of birthplace. Monday, we give thanks for that good fortune.

November 18, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Child marriage harms our human family

Millions of girls are married as children. This fact harms our human family and reminds us how deeply biased our world still is against mothers, sisters and daughters. We now have a moral duty to end one of humankind’s most destructive traditions. Experts say it is feasible in one generation.

Maybe because I am a man, I have spent much of my life ignorant of the scale and awfulness of child marriage. But, in recent years, I have talked to many girls and women who have educated me. It wasn’t until my retirement that I realised that one in three women in the developing world is married before the age of 18, or understood what they risk as a result.

Across the world, girls are powerless to choose when they marry, to whom, or whether they marry at all. The day of their marriage is the day they give up school. Under pressure to bear children, they cannot negotiate safe or consensual sex. As pregnant young mothers, they face the danger of injury and death. Indeed, childbirth is one of the biggest killers of teenage girls in the developing world — and their children face the same tragic odds.

Marrying a girl young, often to a much older man, is a sure way to inflict poverty and inequality in her community. But there is an alternative: to end this cycle is to free a girl to be safe and healthy — to let her flourish and become who she wants to be, on her own terms.

Five years ago, I organised a… continue reading on Financial Times

November 9, 2016

The Day After: Healing Through Ubuntu

This morning, the morning after the 2016 election, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and President-elect Trump have all made the obligatory calls for unity, for us to come together as a nation. But after eighteen months of highlighting divisions, how do we do that? I think all of us in the U.S. woke up this morning knowing one thing for sure – our country is divided. On cable news, social media and over the dinner table, people have been in deep arguments over the state of our nation, and no matter who our preference for candidate, we are dismayed that anyone could ever vote for the other.

Last Sunday, I had a lively discussion with my father about politics. He lives in rural Texas and was telling me how he doesn’t know a single person who supports Hillary Clinton. I live in California’s Silicon Valley and said the same thing about Donald Trump. It occurred to me during that conversation that we live in two separate realities – worlds that might appear to be the same, but where we have different life experiences, interact with different people, and for the most part, have different priorities for what we want out of life.

As I begrudgingly logged into social media this morning, I witnessed people expressing shock and dismay at the outcome of the election, while I also witnessed people taking gleeful joy that the nightmare of the last eight years is almost over. I personally have felt a variety of emotions over the last 12 or so hours, but I think the emotion that stands out most is sadness. Not sadness over the outcome (although admittedly there is a little of that), but sadness that as Americans, there is such a deep divide in our society and we are somehow not able or willing to understand what the other is going through.

At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, one of our guiding principals is the South African concept of ubuntu. Archbishop Tutu has explained ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” That is to say that we are ALL part of a greater whole – not just the people we agree with, not just the people that have the same passions and desires as us – ALL of us.

One thing that has struck me today is that so many are now cutting people out of their lives – people that they once considered friends and in many instances, people that are family. I don’t personally think this is a great idea and I feel it is contrary to the spirit of ubuntu. It isn’t recognizing your shared humanity with people who disagree with you – it is doing the opposite, choosing to instead divide yourself even more. I understand that sometimes one feels the need to get perceived negativity out of their lives. But I would encourage everyone first to reach out, and learn more about what factors are going into their decision making process. Your assumption that someone is racist or homophobic or misogynistic might be totally accurate… OR ,that person may have been out of work for most of the last 2.5 years and can’t afford rent this month and saw one candidate as a someone who was working to address their needs.

Today, some of us are celebrating the outcome of this election and some of us are mourning it. I encourage everyone to take the time they need to do what they need to do. But despite candidates over the last 18 months telling us differently, there really is more that unites us than divides us. We need to remember that we are all in this together and it is only by listening to each other, working with each other and respecting each other, that any of us will have a way forward.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post


October 25, 2016

Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Celebrates Archbishop Tutu with Facebook Live: #TutuAt85

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

On October 7th, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, was able to do something remarkable. We launched Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, a multi-continent celebration of the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 85th birthday. From Cape Town to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, people around the world joined on social media to with celebrate our Arch – all thanks to the wonderful support of our friends at Facebook.

The celebration kicked off with a first – even for the social networking platform – at 7 am SAST, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation launched a Facebook Live stream of the Friday Eucharist, presided by the Archbishop himself. This event was unique as it marked the first time a major church service had ever been streamed live to Facebook. Thousands across the globe joined friends, family and community members gathered in St George’s Cathedral to rejoice and celebrate the life of this amazing man. In addition to the traditional Eucharist service, the Archbishop paid a moving tribute to the cathedral, where he paused to weep briefly.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016 Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

That afternoon, the #ShareTheJoy team live-streamed as they went through downtown Cape Town, inspiring young people to perform acts of joy – a campaign inspired by the recent book by Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy. The streets of downtown Cape Town came alive as the #ShareTheJoy Team handed out cupcakes to passers by.

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre. Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre.
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

For six years now, the celebration of the Archbishop’s birthday celebration day culminates in South Africa with the Desmond Tutu Annual Peace Lecture. An event sponsored by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, this year’s lecture was hosted by Ms. Hina Jilani, an award-winning Pakistani Supreme Court advocate and human rights campaigner. Ms. Jilani who is a member of The Elders, an organization co-founded by Archbishop Tutu, gave a compelling speech on the need for peace in our communities. We were able to live-stream this event with the assistance of SABC television.

Of course, when the the celebration (at least the live-streaming portions) was wrapping up in Cape Town, we were just getting started celebrating across the globe! Friends and admirers of the Archbishop went live with their #TutuAt85 to share their birthday wishes to the Arch. Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Alanis Morissette, Graça Machel, FW de Klerk and so many others took time throughout the day to wish the Archbishop a Happy 85th!

And while dawn was breaking in Cape Town, the party was just getting started in Los Angeles! Quincy Jones, Incubus, Fishbone, Lily Haydn, Pato Banton, Steve Vai, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and so many more artists joined Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Legacy Project. The three hour event was a celebration of the Archbishop kicked off the beginning of #TutuAt85, the first of a series of concerts scheduled to take place in cities all over the world. This entire event was shared live with tens of thousands of people across the world.

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert Photo: Michael Collopy

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert
Photo: Michael Collopy

We are so especially grateful to everyone who helped to make the Archbishop’s 85th birthday an extra special one, and especially to our friends at Facebook for providing us with the technology and platform to be able to share this amazing day with his friends and supporters all over the world.

If you missed any part of the Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, check out the video archives on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DesmondTutuPF/

July 29, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Reaching Within Ourselves for Solutions to Global Violence

Photo by Sumaya Hisham

Photo by Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation

Two knifemen claiming to be acting in the name of God beheaded an 85-year-old priest in Normandy this week.

In Jerusalem, troops destroyed the homes of 11 Palestinian families leading to clashes in which several Palestinians were wounded. In Mogadishu, a suicide bomber killed 13 people outside a United Nations office. In Aleppo, the United Nations called for a “critical” 48-hour ceasefire to ease the desperate plight of 200 000 civilians trapped in Syria’s all-but-destroyed second city. In Florida, two people died and 17 were injured after gunmen opened fire outside a Fort Myers nightclub – the latest in a string of mass shootings stretching back to Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999…

These acts of public violence and terrorism that we are witnessing across the world today are symptomatic of a shrinking global village led by people who prioritise their own interests above those of the rest of the human family.

Morality, our ability to discern right from wrong, and to seek and receive forgiveness, are among the characteristics that set us apart as a species. Love and compassion are in our DNA.

The development of technology has placed us all within reach of one another, but, instead of being led to understand and embrace each other, for our common good, we find ourselves embroiled in the pursuit of much narrower agendas.

Over my long lifetime I have been privileged to witness the advance of the concepts of human rights and universal justice.

But 71 years after the end of the Second World War and establishment of the United Nations, 60 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that came to define the US Civil Rights Movement, 49 years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 22 years since the demise of apartheid in South Africa symbolised the end of European domination over Africa, our world faces unprecedented levels of immorality, inequity, intolerance, insecurity, prejudice, greed, corruption – and impunity.

Instead of viewing the ghastly 9/11 attacks on US civilians as a sign of the necessity to build bridges, today, 15 years after the horrendous attacks, we have been led to the edge of the abyss.

Bombs continue to rain from the skies above Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, forcing more and more civilians to flee their homes. People in Somalia and Nigeria are likewise being forced into migrancy. And, on the streets of our cities – from Bagdad to Kabul, from Damascus to Gaza City and from Istanbul to Dallas to Paris to Munich – the global village is lurching from one incident of indiscriminate violence to the next.

Some of the perpetrators claim to be pursuing “just” military objectives; some, spiritual objectives; some acting in opposition to racism, economic or social injustice – and some are responding to their perceived or actual estrangement from society.

They have collectively triggered unprecedented levels of human migration, suffering and insecurity, and are contributing – daily – to a growing sense of immorality and crisis of leadership across the world.

Righteous people are asking: What do we do to turn back the tide of hatred, corruption and destruction? To whom do we turn for peace and security, for morality, and environmental and social sustainability?

Thankfully, we harbour the answers within ourselves, in acknowledging our inter-dependence. In understanding how much we need each other. Whether we are rich or poor, white, black, pink or green, Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, from north or south…

When theCold War ended and the world surfed into the new global era on a giant wave of technology, people collectively failed to understand the structural and human impacts. We were quick to identify short-term economic opportunities, new free-trade zones, tax havens and financial tools to enable money to flow freely across the planet, but slow to embrace those members of the family we regarded as “other”. And, slow to comprehend the vacuum in checks and balances created by the reduction from two global super-powers to one.

Instead of entering the global village with grace and in humility – which is what set Nelson Mandela apart after ascending to South Africa’s presidency – some of the politically and economically powerful began to believe they were invulnerable.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed 9/11 were breathtaking in their shortsightedness and cost, while the ongoing protection of Israel and the territories it occupies, at the expense of Palestine, is a fundamental cause of global friction, as are access to fossil fuels – and, as climate change begins to bite, to water.

The human family has entered a phase of growing recklessness and willingness to disregard the rights of others, to grab resources and resort to violence to make their arguments or settle their differences.

Humanity is crying out for good leaders, role models with the skills, compassion and sense of justice to hear the cries of their neighbours, to reconcile differences in the human family and share the earth’s resources so that all can eat.

I am very sad.

As a young priest I travelled to the United States to meet leaders of the civil rightsmovement, and rejoiced in their victories over prejudice and discrimination. Today, I battle to reconcile that joy with the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison and being shot in the streets.

I spent much of my life opposing apartheid in South Africa, and was later given the honour of leading the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Today, the reconciliation project is on the back burner, inequity remains pervasive, and our leaders – like those of the rest of the world – have failed to emulate Mr Mandela’s selflessness.

I have had the privilege of being called to travel widely, to interact with leaders and paupers, and contribute where I could for justice and human rights. Today, the fabric of communities and cities is under threat from gunmen and bombers with a total disregard for the rights of anyone else.

Instead of asking how we may be contributing to turning back the immorality pandemic, we seekstealthier weapons, more draconian security solutions, and more economic prosperity for ourselves.

In effect, instead of reconciling anything, we are unravelling the human family. We are closing our eyes to our commonality, to our common purpose and our common interest. We are disavowing the love and compassion with which we were born. We are subverting the fact that we are made for inter-dependence.

Nobody is benefitting.

If you want to make peace, you speak to your enemy. You don’t shoot him or her. You don’t raise your voice; improve your argument, my father would have quite correctly advised.

I am an old man now. I pray for signs before I die of a new type of world leadership that eschews economic, ethnic, regional or religious dominance. I pray for a new cadre of leaders who make peace and equity in the global village, on earth, a priority.

If I don’t see these signs I will die of a broken heart.

(Source: Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation)